Athletics

Sharks survive, oust Kings on Thornton's OT goal

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Sharks survive, oust Kings on Thornton's OT goal

April 25, 2011

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LOS ANGELES (CSNAP) -- Joe Thornton knew exactly where he wanted to be as soon as the Sharks killed off a 5-minute major penalty that had continued into overtime. He got himself in front of the net.His instinct proved right, and he scored 2:22 into the extra session Monday night to give San Jose a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings and send the Sharks to a first-round series win."You've seen this whole series, weird things happen in front of the net. It just spit out nicely and I just gobbled it up," Thornton said. "I was just in the right place at the right time. It felt great."Kyle Wellwood, Jason Demers and Dany Heatley also scored for the Sharks, who wrapped up the all-California series in six games by winning all three OT games.."It's a good feeling and it's nice we don't have to play Wednesday night, we can rest," Thornton said. "But we still have a lot of work to do -- it was a tough series for us."
Justin Williams, Ryan Smyth and rookie Trevor Lewis scored for the Kings, who lost in the opening round for the second straight year and have won just one playoff series since their run to the 1993 Stanley Cup finals with Wayne Gretzky."To go out in the first round is really disappointing," defenseman Jack Johnson said.Gretzky attended the game, but even having the retired superstar on hand couldn't boost the Kings to a needed victory. Instead, they ended up losing all three home games in the series and all three overtime games - just like in the '93 finals when Los Angeles lost three straight OT games to Montreal."We had a 4-0 lead at home in Game 3 and two other OT games and were right there," forward Dustin Brown said. "The difference between winning and losing is that small. They found ways to get goals in OT and we didn't."Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks after being pulled in two of the last three games."We had the lead three times, but they kept coming back on us," Heatley said. "That 5-minute penalty kill was huge for us. That's sometimes how hockey works, you do a good job like that and you get rewarded at the end."Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots for Los Angeles. He gave up 16 goals in the team's three home games."We fully believe we could have won it. That's why we're so disappointed," defenseman Drew Doughty said.The Sharks' Jamie McGinn received a 5-minute major for charging Brad Richardson and an automatic game misconduct at 16:37 of the third period, giving the Kings a power play for the final minutes of regulation."We don't do anything easy," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.The Kings had four shots on goal, including two by Brown, that Niemi stopped to send the game into overtime for the third time in the series."Once we killed that off, we thought we had a good chance and we'll get the momentum after killing that," Thornton said. "We did, and we ended up winning the series after that."The Kings opened overtime with 1:37 left on McGinn's penalty, but they didn't manage a shot on goal."We didn't get a lot of opportunities," Johnson said. "They were very aggressive, which forced us to make plays a little quicker than we wanted to."It wasn't long after that Thornton found the left side of the net open and scored the winning goal, sending him sliding on the ice in celebration."It hit a skate and bounced off his tape and I got caught out of position," a dejected Quick said. "If we played a little better, we could've gone longer. We feel like we gave them a few games earlier in the series."The Kings rallied a third time to tie the game at 3-3 in the third period. Lewis scored the first playoff goal of his career on a power-play rebound at 11:39 with Demers off for interference.Heatley's goal off the right post on a broken play by the Kings gave San Jose its third lead of the game, 3-2 at 8:48 of the third period.
"It was great to see the big guy get the goal," Heatley said of Thornton's game-winner. "It was nice."The Kings tied the game 2-2 on Smyth's rebound goal 18 seconds into the third period.Demers caught Quick out of the crease to put San Jose in front 2-1 at 16:52 of the second period.The Kings tied the game 1-1 when Williams fired in a rebound on the power play at 13:27 of the second. Thornton received a double-minor for high-sticking after he struck Richardson in the mouth. Richardson wears a visor, but he pointed to his mouth and picked up something off the ice.San Jose led 1-0 on Wellwood's first goal of the playoffs at 2:58 of the middle period. Quick lost his stick and made a swiping move to his right to get it back, but he didn't and Wellwood went top shelf off Thornton's assist.Notes: Los Angeles was 5 for 24 on the power play in the series. ... Kings D Rob Scuderi briefly left the game in the second period after taking a skate blade near his eye in a collision with Sharks D Niclas Wallin along the boards. ... There were no goals or penalties in the first period, when the Sharks outshot the Kings 16-5. ... The Kings fell to 11-6 all-time in Game 6s.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

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A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

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As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.